Heart Unions Week – Beth Winter MP & Jason Richards, Rhondda Cynon Taff TUC

“We cannot afford to wait around for a future Labour victory, we must act now. It is vital that the working class look outside Parliament to the Trades Unions to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.”

By Beth Winter MP & Jason Richards, Secretary of the Rhondda Cynon Taff Trades Union Council

Every worker needs a Union, and Heart Unions week is a chance to get active on the cost-of-living crisis.

People are rightly worried about their household living costs. Energy bills will rocket this year after confirmation the energy price cap will increase by over 50%. Food prices continue to grow and it’s the same with transport – whether petrol or train and bus fares.

It seems like everything is going up except wages.

Workers, and key workers in particular, have more than earned a proper pay rise.

It is these key workers who have been the backbone of society during the pandemic, keeping the wheels of the country rolling while corporations make huge profits.

Despite this, there has been an increased attack on workers terms and conditions. Fire and rehire has become a common practice with the pandemic being used as an excuse for introducing a practice that should have been outlawed long ago.

This cost-of-living crisis is overseen by a ruling class who won’t suffer it themselves.

The Bank of England are very open that workers face a fall in living standards, and yet they said workers need to exercise ‘restraint’ in pay bargaining. The Governor of the Bank earns £575,000 a year.

The Tories understand very well that living standards will fall, and yet they are voting for it anyway, by forcing through a real terms cut in welfare and pensions payments.

They are making a political choice, relying on the working class being too disorganised and divided to challenge them.

We must rise to the challenge.

We cannot afford to wait around for a future Labour victory, we must act now. It is vital that the working class look outside Parliament to the Trades Unions to tackle the cost-of-living crisis.

In recent weeks, protest activity and industrial action over pay has increased.

On Saturday, a wave of cost-of-living protests took place in over 20 towns and cities. We will be attending the demonstration in Cardiff this coming Saturday. Organised by the People’s Assembly Against Austerity, there are already plans to repeat these protests in March and April.

There have been some high-profile trade union actions too.

In Coventry, refuse workers are seeking a pay increase. In London, outsourced security guards at Great Ormond Street Hospital are striking for full sick pay and the same benefits as NHS staff.

In Swansea and across the UK, university staff are taking action to defend their pay and pensions.

The PCS Union is currently balloting members whose demands include a 10% pay rise and pension justice.

Nationally, BT engineers have won an important dispute regarding travelling to their first attendance call which can total up to 10 hours of unpaid time a week. This requirement has now been removed. 

Health workers are demanding a 12-15% rise to catch up with a decade of pay restraint.

This activity must be only the start. Wherever they are, Labour members and activists should ensure they are supporting local Trades Unions.

Last year we re-established Rhondda Cynon Taff Trades Union Council. For the first time in many years, different Trades Union branches have come together locally to support each other and promote a grassroots union agenda.

Here in Cynon Valley, the threat of industrial action was enough to secure Stagecoach drivers in the Aberdare depot a 10.4% pay rise, up to £10.50 an hour.

The Labour Party’s foundations lie in the Trade Union movement, and the party has historically been the political arm of the Trade Union movement. The two are intrinsically connected.

It is imperative we maintain and build on this relationship.

At the last RCT Trades Council meeting, delegates expressed their fear that this historic link between the Labour Party and the Trades Unions is weakening.

It was therefore agreed to write out to all Labour candidates ahead of the RCT local elections to ask them what Union they are a member of, and ask them to join a union if they are not already members. We encourage activists around the country to do the same.

The Trades Unions are the organised working class, and we will not allow that to be forgotten.


Peoples Assembly Demo Manchester October 3, 2021. Featured image credit: The People’s Assembly Against Austerity

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